Host Genetic Variation Does Not Determine Spatio-Temporal Patterns of European Bat 1 Lyssavirus

Genome Biol Evol. 2017 Nov 1;9(11):3202-3213. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evx236.


The majority of bat rabies cases in Europe are attributed to European bat 1 lyssavirus (EBLV-1), circulating mainly in serotine bats (Eptesicus serotinus). Two subtypes have been defined (EBLV-1a and EBLV-1b), each associated with a different geographical distribution. In this study, we undertake a comprehensive sequence analysis based on 80 newly obtained EBLV-1 nearly complete genome sequences from nine European countries over a 45-year period to infer selection pressures, rates of nucleotide substitution, and evolutionary time scale of these two subtypes in Europe. Our results suggest that the current lineage of EBLV-1 arose in Europe ∼600 years ago and the virus has evolved at an estimated average substitution rate of ∼4.19×10-5 subs/site/year, which is among the lowest recorded for RNA viruses. In parallel, we investigate the genetic structure of French serotine bats at both the nuclear and mitochondrial level and find that they constitute a single genetic cluster. Furthermore, Mantel tests based on interindividual distances reveal the absence of correlation between genetic distances estimated between viruses and between host individuals. Taken together, this indicates that the genetic diversity observed in our E. serotinus samples does not account for EBLV-1a and -1b segregation and dispersal in Europe.

Keywords: European bat 1 lyssavirus (EBLV-1); RNA virus evolution; genome sequence; next generation sequencing; serotine bat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • Chiroptera / genetics*
  • Chiroptera / virology*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Europe
  • Genome, Viral
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Lyssavirus / classification
  • Lyssavirus / genetics*
  • Lyssavirus / isolation & purification
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Selection, Genetic


  • DNA, Mitochondrial